MONTENEGRO: The Mini-Series. Part 1: Will they make it?

Friday the 12th was Big Bajram, the last day of Ramadan, and Abby’s office was closed, so we decided to go to Montenegro for the long weekend. Because our car has a mylar back windscreen and gaps around the rear door, we decided to rent a car, and Friday morning we went to the local Avis, which is located in the Hotel Rognor. The office was closed because it was Big Bajram, the last day of Ramadan. However, the hotel clerk called the Avis assistant manager, and she came within 10 minutes and agreed to rent us a car. However, we’d need to have a notarized letter stating that we weren’t taking the car out of the country without Avis’ permission. (Apparently, a rental contract isn’t enough.) An obstacle, but within a few minutes the Assistant Manager found a notary who could come in – “within hour and a half or so.” At this point, it was 9.00 AM and we’d already been waiting for an hour. Mylar be damned, we decided to take our own car.

We then needed to get a short-term international drivers’ insurance policy. The “green card” is available at any Western Union office, so we zipped down to the Western Union office at the corner of the entrance to our neighborhood – but it was closed because it was Big Bajram. We then drove back uptown to the Western Union office by the Embassy, which was open. However, their internet connection was down, so they couldn’t sell us the policy. We then went to the third Western Union office down the street, which also was open. However, their electricity was out and their generator was locked in the store next door for safe-keeping.

The clerk told us that we probably could buy insurance at the border, but that if we waited ten minutes, the storekeeper next door would come in, they could get their generator, and sell us the policy. Figuring that we’d want to have this bird in the hand, we agreed to wait, but while we were waiting for the store to open, we received a telephone call that somehow our garage door gate had opened electronically on its own, and we needed to come home to close it with the clicker. Abby went home while I waited for the generator to arrive, and I was still waiting when she came back. It was now well after 10.00 AM.

Finally, the storekeeper arrived, the Western Union guys hooked up their generator, and turned on their computer. It was then that they learned that the insurance company had closed for the holiday and had shut down its server, so they couldn’t sell us a green card. At this point it was 11.00 AM and I was ready to call it quits. However, Abby was sensible and drove us up to the border where, without any trouble whatsoever, we bought our policy and crossed the border.

Dogs, Dogs, Dogs, and Maybe Work




I’ve been taking Cooper to the Park every morning after I drop Abby off at work. (The car is drivable, but very air-conditioned right now because of the accident.) I’ve been able to observe dog pack dynamics, and it’s quite interesting. We’ve also been adopted by some of the park dogs and shunned by others. The “dog friends” include Gimpy, as I named him because he limps when he runs. Then we met Rōlli, a puppy whose sister is owned by a friend of ours; Abby named her Rōlli because she used to roll over submissively when she started to play, but who now outweighs Cooper and knows it. She is comfortable enough with us that she will come over to Cooper to play, unless the leader of her pack is around. Neither the alpha dog nor the puppies’ mother, who seems to be the beta dog, will tolerate Cooper. The alpha barks at him and the beta has snapped at him a few times when he gets too close.

Finally we have Scruffy, who occasionally hangs with the pack and who came over to me last week when I called for Cooper. I said hello and he jumped up on me to have his ears scratched. My guess is that he had been domesticated at one point and then let go; either that, or he’s the most preternaturally friendly wild dog in Tirana. (I haven’t included a photo of Mangy, who no one will play with for the obvious reason.) I’m very tempted to adopt Scruffy after we come back from Egypt next month – Abby has a conference, I’m going to look at pyramid – except that one dog hogging the bed or trying to steal food off the table already constitutes a lot of dogs. As each of you come to visit us in Albania, be prepared to go home with a complimentary dog.

The other complicating factor is that work possibilities loom. I’ve been short-listed for a one-month local consultant position with the U.N. Development Program; the interview is tomorrow. I also expect to meet with the Chief of Party for a USAID-funded local governance contract after he arrives in Tirana next week. And the duties with the Special Friends of the National Gallery continue. I seem to have been drafted into the position of vice-chair, membership, and secretary. We had our first event of the season last night – a tasting of Albanian wines in one of the Gallery’s exhibit halls, complete with chamber music (if you can call renditions of “Making Whoopie” and “O Solo Mio” played on strings “chamber music”) and raised over $400 for the Gallery as well as nearly $500 for ourselves. I’m hoping to open a second career in arts development, but that’s a bit of a way off …

P.S. Cooper now has lost his milk teeth and has real dog teeth, which are stronger but hurt less when he chews your arm to get you to start playing – which he has been doing to me for about two hours now while I’m trying to blog and do Gallery business. He’s also the worst ball-fetcher ever. At least Bill Buckner saw the ball go between his legs; Cooper doesn’t see it if it’s even three inches from his nose.